Just like all those forms and formalities you complete when flying into and out of any foreign country, we have to clear in and out of each country we visit, too. The additional issue is that Nine of Cups needs clearance as well. The crew is cleared in and out by Immigration. The boat is cleared in and out by Customs. Depending on the country, there might be a few more officials involved for clearing in. Australia has AQUIS (Quarantine). Other countries have Health Officers, Port Captains … sometime the list is quite extensive. The forms and formalities can be either simple and efficient or tedious, cumbersome and expensive.
We're pleased to report clearing out of Australia was a breeze. I called the Geraldton Customs Office in advance to ascertain the correct procedure for departure and what exactly it entailed. It was pretty easy. Debra was pleasant and a fount of information. Once I gave her the vessel name, she was able to pull up Nine of Cups on her computer system immediately. She knew that we'd been diligent in completing our quarterly position reports to Customs for the last three years (good on us, huh?) and that we'd last reported in from Mandurah at the beginning of August. She had a picture of the boat on file. She also knew it was about time for us to leave Australia … three years is the maximum time the boat can stay without being imported. She asked that we send an e-mail to give her a couple of days notice for departure clearance and provide the information she needed to complete her side of the paperwork. They would handle the stamping of our passports by Immigration there as well. I can remember trudging from office to office to get heaps of paperwork completed and stamped. This was as good as it gets.
Since arriving in Geraldton, of course, we've had to purchase and install a new windlass. Beaucoup $$$. Australia is gracious enough to refund the GST (10%) paid on large purchases within 60 days of departure. They'll even credit the amount to our credit card! Customs advised they'd be glad to handle this, too. In advance, we were asked to send copies of our passports, as well as a list of electronic equipment with model/manufacturer and serial numbers via e-mail. They'd handle the rest.
So, early on a fine sunny morning, Brett, the Customs Officer, came to the marina and met us aboard Nine of Cups. He completed all the refund paperwork, stamped our passports, gave us our clearance papers and wished us Bon Voyage. No fees involved! Clearing out of a small port with friendly Customs officers definitely has its benefits.
Thank you, Australia! It's been grand. Next stop … Cocos Keeling Islands ... 1423 nm away!